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Published: Saturday, 1/10/2009

Seneca County teacher involved in theater

TIFFIN - Elizabeth Ann "Betsy" Elchert, 74, an elementary school teacher in northwest Ohio for much of 30 years who was a leader in her union and in community theater groups, died yesterday in Mercy Hospital of Tiffin.

She had acute respiratory distress syndrome and had been in the hospital since Dec. 27, her daughter, Melodie Dombrowski, said.

Mrs. Elchert retired in 1993 from Hopewell-Loudon Local Schools, where she taught fifth and sixth grades. She began her career in the Mohawk Local Schools in Sycamore, Ohio, where her mother, Hazel Caves, taught math and science for 29 years. She once was a student in her mother's class.

Mrs. Elchert later taught at St. Joseph and Noble schools in Tiffin and in Seneca East Local Schools.

She taught all subjects at some point, but she enjoyed English most. Through the Autumnwood Care Center, where she lived the last 12 years, she took part in a mentoring program for Lincoln Elementary School students.

"I think she enjoyed making a difference with children," her daughter said. "[Teaching] was rewarding to her in that way."

Mrs. Elchert was a former president and a former secretary of the Hopewell-Loudon Education Association.

Music and singing were part of her life in Sycamore from an early age.

She sang soprano in the chancel choir and directed the youth choir of Sycamore United Church of Christ.

She was a former president and a former secretary of the Little Theatre Society and the Sycamore Music Club.

"She had a very pretty voice," Phyllis Hartschuh Neal, a friend since first grade, said.

Later, Mrs. Elchert was part of community in theater in Tiffin. She was in dramas - Inherit the Wind - and such musicals as The Music Man, Annie, Brigadoon, and Kismet.

She was a former board secretary of the Ritz Players at the Ritz Theatre in Tiffin.

Mrs. Elchert was a 1951 graduate of Sycamore High School. Afterward, she joined Mrs. Neal briefly for nurse's training at Cleveland City Hospital.

Instead, though, Mrs. Elchert decided to pursue her mother's profession and enrolled in Bowling Green State University, from which she graduated in 1958.

"They did everything together," her daughter said. "My mother's father passed away when she was very young, so it was just the two of them. They were very close."

Her mother died June 16, 2000.

Mrs. Elchert was a member of St. Mary Church, Tiffin.

She used a wheelchair after she had a stroke in the early 1990s. At Autumnwood Care Center, she became president of the residents' council. She was on the Seneca County Park Board.

When Zimmerman Nature Preserve was developed near the care center, she spoke out in favor of paving walkways and raising flower beds so wheelchair users could appreciate nature.

"She liked to make changes for good and for what she thought was the right reason," her daughter said. "She definitely had her point of view."

Surviving are her husband, Donald, whom she married June 19, 1961; sons, Keith and Kenneth; daughter, Melodie Dombrowski, and three grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Traunero Funeral Home, Tiffin, where there will be a wake service at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Joseph Church, Tiffin, where there will be at recitation of the Rosary at 10:45 a.m. Monday.

The family suggests tributes to the Autumnwood Care Center or the Mohawk Historical Society, Sycamore, Ohio.



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